Vedere Bio II closes doors after preclinical studies fall short
Published: Apr 03, 2023
By Tristan Manalac
Almost two years after its launch, eye-focused gene therapy start-up Vedere Bio II is closing its doors, company leaders announced through a LinkedIn post over the weekend.
The decision to end the company’s operations comes after it missed its preclinical targets, Kevin Bitterman, chairman, and Cyrus Mozayeni, CEO, Vedere Bio II, said in the post.
“We set a high bar for success, and a broad set of preclinical efficacy studies were performed to determine if we cleared that bar,” they wrote. “Based on the results of those studies, we made the difficult decision to discontinue our efforts.”
Vedere II debuted in May 2021, around seven months after Novartis acquired its predecessor, Vedere Bio, in October 2020 for $150 million upfront and up to $130 million in milestones.
In an email to BioSpace, a Novartis spokesperson said the assets it received from the 2020 buyout are in preclinical development.
When it launched, Vedere II had $77 million in backing from a Series A funding round led by Octagon Capital. Operating as a completely independent unit from Novartis, the start-up sought not only to slow down vision loss but also to restore eyesight.
To achieve its goal, the Cambridge, MA-based biotech leveraged a two-pronged platform that combined optogenetics research from Drs. Ehud Isacoff and John G. Flannery at UC Berkeley, its scientific founders, and ocular gene therapy delivery technology from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
By using adeno-associated virus capsids, Vedere II hoped to target cells downstream from a defective photoreceptor and convert these functional players into light-sensing proxies.
“Essentially, we’re bypassing the broken part of the circuit and installing this function where it normally wouldn’t be,” Mozayeni told BioSpace at the time of Vedere II’s launch.
Initially, this approach showed strong pre-clinical promise. In mouse models of retinitis pigmentosa, Vedere II’s platform was able to restore visual function, so much so that the once-blind mice were not indistinguishable from counterparts that had no defect to begin with, Mozayeni said.
Vedere II had also hoped to target geographic atrophy and other inherited retinal diseases.
“The mission of vision restoration for the millions of people who suffer from both genetic and non-genetic causes of vision loss is a worthy one, and we believe the future is bright. We cheer for those of you who continue to carry the torch toward this goal and look forward to seeing your success,” Bitterman and Mozayeni said in their LinkedIn post.